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New York Must Pass the Climate Change Superfund Act

Passing the landmark piece of legislation will be an act of accountability for Big Oil and will help generations of New Yorkers.
People's Climate March on September 21, 2014 in New York City. Photo:
The Climate Change Superfund Act is a landmark piece of legislation and an act of accountability. For years, corporations have maimed our environment and New York taxpayers are being forced to pay billions for Big Oil’s mess. Quality of life for generations to come is at stake. We must demand guilty companies pay those billions instead; billions that will reshape neighborhoods and save lives. Not only is this doable, it is inches from fruition. 
Last year, the bill recieved state Senate approval but was unable to pass through the Assembly. This is a crucial moment of collective opportunity to take advantage of the bill’s momentum and determine our future. Public pressure is absolutely imperative for such a historical inflection point. 
Forty-three years ago, the “polluter pays” Federal Superfund led to thousands of toxic waste sites being cleaned. However, times have changed in the past four decades. We are in desperate need of an update. Large oil and gas producers, such as ExxonMobil and Shell, have released over one billion tons of greenhouse gasses. When this legislation passes, they will have to pay $3 billion annually for the next 25 years into a dedicated fund. 
This $3 billion pales in comparison to the $750 billion in profits gas producers have claimed since 2021. Resistance to this bill is a futile attempt at denial; denial of the fact that the human race shares the same earth. No amount of hoarded wealth will save corporations from facing the disastrous consequences of climate change. 
The same is true for state legislators. New Yorkers have nothing to fear from the The Climate Change Superfund Act. According to an analysis by the Institute for Policy Integrity at NYU Law, these fees would not increase consumer gas prices. This is due to the fact that they are a fixed cost, rather than a current variable cost of production. Market forces of supply and demand discourage cost increase, which would lead consumers to bring their business elsewhere.
The $3 billion annual penalty for 25 years is simply an assessment of past damages and does not factor in current or future harm. Corporations will be required to financially acknowledge past behavior and taxpayers will be protected at the pump. These numbers are not abstract. They have concrete, tangible, and devastating impacts on everyday workers. 
In 2023, NYPIRG released an analysis that estimate future climate costs for each New York City family as $50,906 per household. This number does not include weather emergencies that are bound to occur. In June, New York’s air quality was ranked “worst in the world” by IQAir due to deadly wildfire smoke. This choking smog was no coincidence. In fact, it has been directly linked to polluters. World Weather Attribution calculated climate change to have more than doubled the likelihood of extreme fire weather conditions. 
Meanwhile, education, mass transit, healthcare, and other community infrastructures have been scrambling for funding. When the Climate Change Superfund Act is passed, money will be directed towards preventative healthcare programs, sewage treatment systems, air conditioning, upgrading transportation, and so much more. Investing in public services will create jobs and community resilience. Time and time again, polls have consistently demonstrated that voters value the economy above all else. 
The first priority for Albany lawmakers should be to ease taxpayer burden and ensure the well being of their constituents.To fulfill these ideals, the Climate Change Superfund Act is simply non-negotiable.

Elisa Edgar, a Brooklyn resident, is a student at the Pratt Institute and an intern at the nonprofit NYPIRG.